How Much Does Dog Back Surgery Cost?

Written by: Staff

Intervertebral disc disease, commonly referred to as IVDD, is a common disease that affects the spine area.  This disease will happen when one or more of the discs, which help provide a cushion to the spine, degenerates.  This, in turn, will lead to a compression feeling, leading to a painful experience for your dog.

Common breeds affected by this disease includes the Basset Hounds, French Bulldogs, the Pekingese, Pomeranians, the Welsh Corgi and Cocker Spaniels.

Black lab laying down by m01229, on Flickr
Black lab laying down” (CC BY 2.0) by m01229

How much does dog back surgery cost?

The cost for dog back surgery is a bit hard to estimate since there are a few variables such as the type of back surgery, your location, the pre-op tests, post-op costs and the vet helping your dog.  Really, it’s going to come down to your vet’s treatment plan and the best course of action to heal your pup. Most people, who have paid for a back surgery, said it will likely cost around $2,000 to $6,000+, depending on the severity of the back injury.  This is just the cost for the surgery alone and won’t include any additional tests required before or after the surgery has been performed.  For example, before the test, many vets will perform a basic physical exam, neurological exam, blood work, x-rays, MRI, CT scan, spinal tap and/or myelogram.  When all of these additional tests are added to the total, it could bring the grand total to $4,000 to more than $8,500.  

The surgical procedure, according to Embrace Pet Insurance, is said to be inside the $1,500 to $4,000 range.

On a member said they found out their dog needed spinal surgery, and the cost would be about $3,500.

On another forum thread at, a member asked if a $3,600 to $4,500 estimate would be fair, and many who replied said this is a fair estimate.

What is going to be included?

Disc fenestration

Disc fenestration is a complicated procedure that lets the veterinarian surgically open the dog’s back and isolate the intervertebral discs by dissecting the muscle away from the vertebrae.  With the use of a specific material, the disc material is scraped out of its anatomic location, which then prevents it from a future herniation.  This is a painful procedure for your dog since the back muscles are cut, and the post-operative pain may be very hard for your dog to deal with.

Laser disc ablation surgery

Laser disc ablation surgery, on the other hand, is a process where a doctor places needles through the skin into the centers of seven different disc locations.  This is done while the dog is under general anesthesia.  During this procedure, an x-ray is taken to ensure that each needle tip is precisely in the center of each treated disc.  Then, once the needle tip location is confirmed, a Holmium: YAG laser fiber is put through the needle, into the center of the disc, and the laser energy is turned on.  This laser surgical treatment liquefies the disc material and allows scar tissue to form, which prevents the disc from herniating and injuring the spinal cord in the future.  To learn more about these processes in detail, you can check out the official site of Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at

What are the extra costs?

As mentioned above, there are so many additional procedures that may need to be ordered, depending on your dog’s situation.  At a minimum, plan on spending money on blood work, a physical exam, urinalysis, MRI, CT scan and spinal tap.  Other tests, such as serum chemistry, a myelogram, and neurological exam, can be even more expenses to think about.  Again, this will all be dependent upon the treatment plan your veterinarian recommends.

After the surgery, be prepared for a few follow-up visits and medications.

Tips to know:

Laser disc ablation surgery does result in a lower rate of recurrence when compared to other methods of spinal surgery; however, the procedure is designed for dogs that are experiencing “back pain.”  It is not recommended for dogs with signs of spinal compression.

A dog owner must consider more than just the price when choosing a procedure.  A good way to reduce the risks of surgery is to choose a specialist — a board certified vet who is a neurological (ACVIM) and/or orthopedic (ACVS) surgeon and has been well trained to perform the surgery.  He or she should also have plenty of experience and practice with any sort of spinal-based surgery.  After all, working on the delicate spinal cord is a very tricky and complicated surgery.

Recovery will greatly depend on the type of surgery your dog undergoes.  After the surgery, your dog will probably stay at the vet’s office for up to seven days.  With many complications that can occur, it’s important to have a trained medical staff monitor your dog for the time being.

How can I save money?

You may be able to lower the costs by considering a training hospital and/or veterinary centers that exist in areas around veterinary schools.

Many hospitals will have payment plans available for those who can’t afford to pay for the surgery in full.

Consider researching some local organizations that may be able to assist you with your payments.  These organizations are designed to help those who meet minimum income requirements.

Get a second or even third opinion as surgery may not be necessary.  In some circumstances, a vet may want to test out pain medications and some restrictions to see if anything improves.  Other options, according to can include laser therapy or acupuncture.

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How much did you spend?

Was it worth it?  

  1. Joe Carraro (Albuquerque,  New Mexico) paid $ and said:

    it has now cost over $45,000 for operations, post-operative care, treatments, therapy, etc. My Lab X still cannot walk after 7 months.

    Was it worth it? Yes

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